How’s your New Year’s resolution coming? If you’re anything like me, you have inevitably put off your resolution at least once. Resolutions often dissolve as quickly as they are developed—for many of us, nothing really changes after New Year’s Day. The uncomfortable truth is that only 8 percent of people actually keep their resolutions, according to research by University of Scranton. The numbers beg this question: Why do so many of us fail at our resolutions?
The answer may be rooted in ineffective goal-setting.
We live in a time where options are unlimited, which makes quitting easier than ever. Did you decide to eat healthy, only to be lured in by any one of the two dozen fast-food joints on your way to work? Had you made up your mind to watch less TV only to see a commercial for a new show that already has you hooked? Often, by the second week of January, when I’d not worked out as often as I said I was going to, or eaten something that I promised I wouldn’t, or hadn’t accomplished nearly as much on my new schedule as I’d planned, that sense of failure makes me lose motivation for pursuing my goal. Mentally, I’ve already blown it, and the calendar doesn’t even say February yet.
New Year’s resolutions are great, but they are, essentially, made to be broken. We like to create ambitious goals, but we often do so without a plan of execution. Without a clear path laid out before us, we lose motivation and quit. And once we do that, we make it remarkably easy for ourselves to quit the next thing… and the next… and the next.
But there’s hope. If you’ve already wavered, then you can recalibrate. Just because you’ve failed in your resolution goals doesn’t mean you have to give up altogether. Remember that goal-setting shouldn’t be an annual event, but a monthly or a weekly one.
Here are four ways we can become more effective goal-setters:
1. Don’t try to change too many things at once. Take some time to brainstorm things you truly want to achieve or change. What do you really want out of life? Then break down your resolution into bite-size goals and focus on accomplishing them one at a time. When you are successful, move on to the next goal.
2. Set realistic goals. It is fantastic to challenge yourself to stretch your abilities, but if you are too ambitious, you will find yourself discouraged when you fail to reach your goals. Don’t expect to lose 30 pounds in your first month or to see your sales figures rise 500 percent in four weeks. Instead, get a sense of what will challenge you but is still within the realm of possibility, and go after those results with all your might.
3. Stay focused and adapt well. I know. Failing feels bad. But if you falter, put that failure in the rearview mirror. Then look forward. Every week assess how you did and rebound quickly from any setbacks. Be critical with your strategy in order to make it stronger when you try again. Remember, a vague plan will almost always fail.
4. Hold yourself accountable short-term to achieve long-term change. What are you doing daily to accomplish your goal? Circle a future date on your calendar and regularly measure your success. You can also recruit a reliable accountability partner to keep you in check.
The bottom line is this: If you falter in your goals, you don’t have to wait until the next New Year’s Eve to create brand-new resolutions. After refocusing, each new week or new month can be your new beginning… your new New Year’s Eve.
Quitting is the easy option. Just because something is momentarily too hard for us doesn’t mean we are not capable of ultimately rising to the challenge. If you have a determined attitude, realistic goals, a specific approach and a plan of accountability, then you may surprise yourself at how productive you can be. The great ones in sports and business know that change is never easy but requires hard work and consistent effort. By not giving up, we can learn a valuable lesson in goal-setting.
Have you ever set a goal or resolution, failed… and recovered for success? Leave me a comment and tell me your story.